Bogdan Dragos

dead and unfazed

217 days
without speaking
or seeing each other
and suddenly she shows up
knocks on his door and says,
“Hey, we’re still together, right?
Still a couple?”

He didn’t answer,
just ushered her in
through a curtain of smoke
and moldy smells.
His small apartment
looked more like a cave
than ever before.
The walls were dark and irregular
with buildup of grime.

The cockroaches were long dead,
poisoned with cigarette smoke
and ashes

26 years her senior,
he was a modern caveman
Still lived in a cold, dark,
and gross cave,
but he had a laptop
and internet connection.

The screen
was the only thing
alive in the cave.

It showed a compilation
of short videos
featuring brutal executions
from all around the world.

“So how have you been?”
she asked.

His reply was a grunt
as his gnarled hand
reached into his breast pocket
and fished out the pack
of cigarettes and a lighter.

He placed one between
his lips and lit it
and then offered her one.

She took it
and as she stretched
her hand for it
a neat row of self-inflicted scars
shone from her wrist to elbow

“I take it you still haven’t
managed to publish
your writings,” she said.

It drew another
grunt from him,
a louder one
this time.

“So nothing’s changed
in all this time,”
she continued.
“You didn’t make it,
I didn’t make it,
and the world made it
without us.”

Another grunt from him.

He sat down at the desk
and paused the gore videos
that ran with black metal music
playing in the background.
The image that froze onscreen
portrayed a naked man
on his knees, hands tied
behind his back,
while a chainsaw was about
to dig into his belly.

“I was thinking,” she continued,
“you know how people make
those silly promises
that sound something like,
‘if we don’t find partners
by the time we’re so and so years
old we marry each other’?
Well, I was thinking,
what if we make a promise
just like that?
Only, not about marrying
each other.
Rather, if in two years’ time
we don’t make it.
That is, if you don’t get published
as a writer and I still can’t
find a good man to marry…
we suicide together.
What do you say?”

Puffing on his cigarette,
he watched her,
studied her from head
to toe and back,
and after another grunt
and a much needed clearing
of his throat he said,
“Aren’t we already dead?
What’s the point of
suicide now?”

They were both silent
for a long while
and then she said,
“Did I tell you about
the time I aborted
your child?”

He shook his head.
“Pretty sure it wasn’t mine.”

“It was yours,” she said.

He dismissed her
with another grunt
and a slight shake of his head.

Then they smoked
in silence and finished
the whole pack,
letting the ashes fall
straight to the floor
where they joined a gray desert.

He resumed the gore videos
but turned down the volume.

“Some days ago
I slept with a guy
only so I could use his computer
to check out stories of yours
on the internet,”
she said eventually.
“Aside from three or four
very short ones
there was nothing new.
Why did you stop posting?”

“I stopped writing,” he said.

“Oh…”

She came behind him
and they both watched
some poor homeless man
being held down
by a gang of teenagers
as two of them used a brick
to hammer a long screwdriver
up one of his nostrils.

He turned the volume lower.

“Well, I haven’t stopped looking
for a good man,” she said.
“I just hadn’t found one yet.
I thought that maybe if we make
that two-year promise…
maybe it’ll motivate us both,
but I see you’ve already given up.
You are already dead,
aren’t you?
I’m speaking to a ghost.”

He grunted
and lit another cigarette
from a new pack
and offered her another.

They watched gore videos
for the rest of the night
and smoked.

At some point
she said that she
had a loose tooth
and fiddled with it until it
came out of the socket.
There was no blood
and no pain.

She placed it on the desk
and he silently
took it and put it
into his breast pocket
with the pack of cigarettes.

In the morning,
she was ready to leave.

She borrowed
fourteen dollars
and two cigarettes
and stopped by
the corner store
to buy razor blades.

The cashier wasn’t any
more alive than herself
and the modern caveman
she’d left behind
for the final time.

“Say, you wanna marry
in the near future?” she asked
from across the counter.

The cashier just replied
with a grunt.

10 thoughts on “Bogdan Dragos

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